We Want Immediate Feedback, Nothing Wrong With That

As you might’ve noticed, I like gamification and am interested in how it could be applied in education. I see gamification as an important way to drive student motivation and engagement. Engagement, in turn, together with tools and services increasing teacher efficiency, can lead to better learning outcomes.

Feedback loop.

Wow, lots of big words. So let’s stop and elaborate a little. First of all, by better learning outcomes I don’t mean just good grades. No, they entail actually comprehending things and being able to apply them in various ways. (Think Bloom.)

Secondly, what do I mean with teaching efficiency? I mean facilitating the teacher in any way possible to reduce the bottlenecks slowing down important classroom activities. Teachers need communication tools, automatic grading, intuitive presentation materials, etc.

Finally, motivation and engagement. When students are motivated, they tend to spend more time studying (quantity), but also, and more importantly, they are “open” to learn things (quality). That is why students need engaging exercises and other content.

This is where gamification kicks in (again, as one option among many). I don’t see it as a grand learning theory, not at all. It shouldn’t get us into any Skinnerian dystopia in education. No, I just see it as a means to an end, a way to engage students. There are many many parts in learning and education where gamification plays no role.

Sometimes gamification is criticized for relying on external motivators such as badges, leaderboards, rewards, and immediate feedback. More “noble” would be to find the intrinsic motivators like mastery & creation and tap to those.

Agree & disagree here. I also think indeed intrinsic motivators are more important. However, extrinsic motivators can kickstart the process and lead to craving for mastery and actually learning new things.

It is no accident we play these casual games and spend lots of time in doing so. They carefully build on our need for feedback and advancing in levels. After a while we find ourselves not being so interested in badges and points any more but actually wanting to crack the game. If we can leverage this phenomenon somewhere in the learning process, what’s wrong with that?

A final comment on feedback: it doesn’t always have to be positive. Negative feedback in appropriate doses, forms, and contexts can also drive motivation and learn to better learning outcomes. Mere positive feedback creates spoiled brats.

Flickr image CC credits: stoic

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